Swami Sitaramananda, Director of the Sivananda Yoga Farm is abusive
Posted by: dartreeg ()
Date: January 16, 2008 01:22AM

Hello. I am writing to you in the hope that you might publish on your site some information about Swami Sitaramananda. She is the director of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Grass Valley, CA called the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm. A direct disciple of Swami Vishnu-devananda, she is the NOT most hardcore and abusive "swami" I have ever met, unfortunately, but for sure she is the least honest about what she is doing, and I think even from herself.

I have been watching this for about a year now, trying to work out why I was having difficulty here, and I have concluded that she is someone who simply doesn't believe that what she is doing is wrong. Researching this, I found that in cold reading, whether one knows one is doing it or not, there is a disparity in power, which produces a situation where the audience wants the person on stage to be right, and will do everything in their power to fit their experience to the words/music coming out of the mouth of the person on the stage or giving the talk. Once this position is established, then the person on the stage gets a reinforcement that their words/music are really having an effect on the audience, reinforced by feedback from the people who have listened.

Armed with this information, I began to see a pattern of Barnum statements being made during out satsangs, and could then clearly see the negative message she was and is propagating in the name of a pure teaching.

In this way, I have been able to separate the teachings (which I still believe to be very helpful and useful) from the teacher who is distorting them.

Whether she knows she is doing it or not, for me is not important. She is definitely doing these things, and getting away with it to a large measure due to the large respect many people have for this organization and the teachings. However, it's my belief that she, and other disciples of Swami Vishnu-devananda (but not all) are doing the same in other parts of the world. I think it's clear to many inside and outside the organization that the organization is dying a slow death as a result.

Swami Sita in particular is guilty of this in my view. What she teaches in satsang and what you learn from her or definitely not the same. Talking ABOUT peace and so on is not the same as teaching it. I have the crazy idea that a guru or a teacher should lead one to peace ad understanding, not away from it.

She is pushing, forcing and agressive in her mannerisms, speech and with the amount of work given to everyone. It's purely excessive, and often our work study students leave because it's nearly all work, everyone is stressed out, speaking badly to each other and guests, and on and on like this.

I read an article which sounded like a mild version of what I am talking about here: [www.barnard.edu]

This talks about the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in New York, run by a Swami who has switched from being a Swami to not back to a Swami and not now again. He's on the executive board for this organization! Even with another far more lax leader like Srinivasan (where I saw myself in satsang TTC students were giving each other back massages-!) there is this attitude in satsang which is VERY contrasting with, for example, staff life.

I am soon moving away from here myself, but I have lived here for more than 2 years. In this time, I have witnessed and been the target of much abusive behavior from Swami Sita (check swamisita.com or swamisita.org for more info on her). One of the foundational principles of Yoga is the principle Ghandhi was famous for- ahimsa- non-injury.

She places herself as an infallible leader, and all communications are just in one direction- she talks, you listen. No other kind of interaction is possible. She is the last and final word on every aspect of your life. Excessive control has been consistently exerted on me as I have begun to vocally question things and I am yelled at and put down like an errant child. In truth, this is her basic method- extreme work, extreme discipline, extreme controlling behavior, because all are regarded as children in her eyes.

Even when I have had once or twice a year back and forth exchanges with her in a reasonable manner, I am made to understand that I couldn't possible grasp the import or methods she is employing to teach me. Having been a coach of athletes for 20 years, this is a difficult thing to swallow as gospel, since her behavior isn't consistent with what she says.

This Swami has physical shoved me like a schoolyard bully during a meeting in full view of other staff, ostensibly to "teach" me
something, all the while saying that this is what *I was doing to her*. I have endured months and months of verbal abuse and controlling behavior also, usually in staff meetings. However, I am not the only one. We cannot keep any long term staff here as a result.

She has really begun to give an otherwise pretty clean organization a bad name, I feel. I have learned to separate the teacher from the teachings, so I can have some peace of mind for myself. Most of her disciples who have left are quite disabled by what they got from her, and I talked to a woman last night who went to therapy for sometime following being her personal assistant (I was also for a time) and her therapist concluded that Swami Sita was a downright dangerous person.

I will likely begin a support group after I leave here, so that these things can be known and more people can post their experiences and get help from sympathetic minds about the abuse suffered at the hands of Swami Sita.

The problem is, that many people who come here are fairly new to the spiritual path, and on these people Barnum statements and generic teachings work well- and worked well for me once also. I see the mentality which I used to have, and I also see that other new staff fall into it, and even fall for the so-called discipline of me and try to learn something from Swami Sita's consistent abuse of me and other long term staff in staff meetings.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I think this has covered my main points for now. Please let others know what is happening here.

Re: Swami Sitaramananda, Director of the Sivananda Yoga Farm is abusive
Posted by: greg hamond ()
Date: January 26, 2008 07:23AM

nothing new..they are called.."the mafia" and 'israeli mafia"...i knew someone who went to the islands.....and a few people left in protest of abuse from swami

Re: Swami Sitaramananda, Director of the Sivananda Yoga Farm is abusive
Posted by: greg hamond ()
Date: January 26, 2008 07:25AM

She has really begun to give an otherwise pretty clean organization a bad name...ba....even before Swami Vishnu lleft this earth there were serious problems

Re: Swami Sitaramananda, Director of the Sivananda Yoga Farm is abusiv
Posted by: dartreeg ()
Date: January 26, 2008 10:50AM

It's interesting to me that I would read two posts in a row on this subject from the same poster who uses similar language to people who abuse. 1) Disregarding other's views is one way of imposing your will upon people (ba, nothing new), which I would say is shared by Swami Sita and other abusers.
2) Making vacuous/outrageous assertions ( i.e. Israeli Mafia? In an ashram in California?) of problems without basis in fact, or referring to one's own personal experience, doesn't help anyone in having a serious discussion about what I hoped to be viewed as a serious topic and might help someone.

I realize that this IS the internet and these kinds of post are part and parcel of it. Still, I thought this was a forum for "Cult Education", and not the kinds of things being stated above by greg hamond.

I would ask that you kindly base your assertions on something which can serve a better understanding of this topic.

Thank you.
Regis Chapman

Re: Swami Sitaramananda, Director of the Sivananda Yoga Farm is abusive
Posted by: dartreeg ()
Date: March 09, 2010 03:52PM

I got an email from a woman as a result of this forum, and I felt I needed to update what I had written here. I haven't been living at the ashram in a couple of years now, and looking back at my words, I regret writing some things or not explaining them fully.

I do believe an ashram to be a great place to live, learn and connect with one's spiritual Self. I am starting a yoga studio myself in the next months, having finally begun sharing my life with my partner who is supportive of my dream.

However, I can see the tremendous trust that must exist in order for the gurukula system to work properly. Living at the time and in the culture we are in in the West, however, it's far too likely that even direct descendants of big swamis may have difficulty in presenting their students with the full effect of that progenitor's way of teaching. East meets West in complicated ways, and in those differences there are far too many opportunities for abuse.

In the example above, Swami Sita has clearly taken just the discipline aspect of spiritual life and elevated it to some extreme level in imitation of her guru.

Many people will ask the reasonable question: Why hasn't the larger Sivananda organization, which should have some control over her as a result of the hierarchy left in place by Swami Vishnu-devananda, removed her from that position? The answer is simple and comes from her own mouth to me directly: "Over My Dead Body."

After some other staff problems in the past, I think this removal of her power over the Yoga Farm was proposed, but Swami Sita uses her yogic powers and determination from years of sadhana for nothing if not defending herself like a badger. Put her in a corner, and you have an absolutely ruthless and capable adversary. Eventually, the organization realized they would have a fight on their hands the likes of which they had never seen to remove her, so they left things alone. I know that she's essentially ostracized from the organization as a whole after too many incredible gaffes and complete disrespectful stances taken while traveling through the organization. She's not welcome at many centers or ashrams anymore, and has resorted to creating her own Asian centers, but often loses the control of them through her control freakishness. I have heard this directly from those staff members myself.

Again, in retrospect, I can see her own ego asserting itself through her increasing narcissism (her office was more and more showing photos of herself and less and less of Swami Vishnu), controlling behaviors, and a severe lack of compassion. As an example, I had a knee surgery near the end of my stay- an ACL reconstruction, and she seriously was yelling at me regarding why I couldn't sit on the floor cross-legged within a couple of weeks after. Sorry, it's simply not possible.

During my recovery, almost no one bothered to check on me, Swami Sita least of all. What I came to understand was that Swami Sita herself, and as a result, the remaining long-term staff came to regard every person in the ashram as merely a tool for their use. If you needed some compassion for an honest medical condition, you were useless and treated as such.

I myself became, over time, an example of why other staff or even short-term guests would leave the ashram after witnessing the sort of verbal dressing-down I received on a regular basis. I would always deflect this harshness from her because she was my teacher. The more I did this, the more abuse was heaped upon me. The longer it went and the more devoted you were, the more abuse you received. If, however, you began to think for yourself, mature in your outlook, etc. as you would expect from years of practice, then you were abused for a different reason- because you were outside her capabilities to address you as a mature independent thinking and reasoning person.

Her ONLY tactic is the prey upon those whose personalities wouldn't hold up under her initial complementary treatment and later reversing into harshness and rather prodigious knowledge of the simple facts of basic yogic life, Vedanta and so on. She's a reasonable Vedantic scholar, but even a year or so of study put me into being able to answer questions I saw her unable to answer during meetings and satsangs.

Swami Sita is unable to retain any staff for any serious length of time, except those who have already been involved in previous cult-ish behavior; witness the co-dependent nature of most of the staff if not outright coming from a Scientology background- which I have seen, too. These people seem to have a hard time (as I did, coming from abused backgrounds) in using the very tools you learn in yoga to discriminate how the mind works to see what consists of an actual guru (remover of darkness). Still, everyone can see how she takes everything too far in the discipline and harshness area of learning (which have their uses, as a coach of athletes, I understand) without the necessary love and compassion to back that discipline up. I am sure Swami Vishnu got away with the incredible discipline he asked for from his students because of the depth of love he demonstrated to them. I have been told this by many direct disciples themselves.

I do believe that the nature of yoga works with and reforms the mind, the heart and allows one you directly address the vast sea of knowledge that lay beyond the mind and mere thinking. In order to do so, one really needs a very large spiritual entity to properly teach in the gurukula system. However, Swami Sita isn't that teacher.

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